On July 6 seven intrepid observers set out on the Niobrara Valley Preserve’s 34th annual butterfly count. Conditions were incredibly dry (perhaps accounting for the lower overall numbers observed) but we were able to record 28 species and 161 individual butterflies. These totals fell roughly in line with averages for the last 10 years (26.8 species and 188 individuals). Of the 28 species counted, one was a Nebraska Natural Heritage Program (NENHP) Tier 1 species (Regal Fritillary) and another nine were Tier 2 species. NENHP listed species accounted for nearly one third of the species counted. This illustrates the importance of the habitats protected on the Preserve. An additional Tier 1 sighting of a Whitney’s Underwing Moth occurred the night before at lights set up by Neil and Jonathan. The high point of the count was finding multiple (ok only two) Two-Spotted Skippers, one being at a new locality. This uncommon marsh skipper rarely strays far from its niche habitat and has now been found at three locations at the Preserve. Thanks to the count participants – Brandon Cobb, Emma Greenlee, Ashley Oblander, Eric Behrens, Chris Helzer (all from TNC), Jonathan Nikkila and to Amanda Hefner who facilitated logistics for the count.
Butterflies found on the 2022 count were (NENHP listed species are boldfaced): Silver Spotted Skipper – 2 Common Sootywing – 2 Tawny Edged Skipper – 6 Peck’s Skipper – 1 Crossline Skipper – 4 Long Dash – 2 Northern Broken Dash – 9 Little Glassywing – 5 Delaware Skipper – 4 Dun Skipper – 2 Two Spotted Skipper – 2 Giant Swallowtail – 1 Cabbage White – 1 Orange Sulpher – 6 Acadian Hairstreak – 1 Coral Hairstreak – 2 Melissa Blue – 1 Great Spangled Fritillary – 15 Regal Fritillary – 16 Viceroy – 3 Red Admiral – 1 Eastern Comma – 1 Buckeye – 1 Silvery Checkerspot – 1 Pearl Crescent – 2 Eyed Brown – 2 Little Wood Satyr – 10 Common Wood Nymph – 59
Thirty four years is a long time to maintain a count. This would not have been possible without all the volunteer observers who have pitched in over the years and the staff (past and present) at the Preserve. Many thanks to all involved!!